The U.S. Navy’s FY ’19 budget request and 30-year shipbuilding plan expects to have 34 additional ships in the inventory by FY 2023, but the service’s goal of reaching 355 ships extends into the 2050s at current rates if shipbuilding remains stable.
The service currently fields 280 deployable battle force ships and submarines with about 91 deployed as of today, including forward deployed vessels.
The FY ’19 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) covering the next five fiscal years, plans to build 54 more battle force ships. This is 11 more over the FY ’18 FYDP request.
This includes the first full year of funding for the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN-81; 14 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDG); one more Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) before transitioning to six future frigates (FFG(X)) in FY ’20; 10 Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN) with two per year; the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN); three new amphibious assault ships (LX(R); two Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB); eight T-AO 25 fleet replenishment oilers; six tug and salvage replacement ships (T-ATS(X)); and two T-AGOS(X) ocean surveillance ship replacements.
The Navy estimates it will cost about $106.5 billion to build these ships.
The Navy also said that service life extension program (SLEP) will be funded for six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, four Mine Countermeasures (MCM) ships, and the first of up to five Los Angeles-class attack submarines (SSN).
The shipbuilding plan said all of these candidates matched criteria based on restoration, ability to be upgraded with current systems, anticipated additional life, and cost vs. replacement vs. other higher priority investments.
The service described a total of 21 ships set to be decommissioned or placed out of service during the FYDP. This includes 11 SSNs, four T-AOs, three MCMs, and three T-ATF ocean tugs.
The Navy will also remove 45 ships form the inactive inventory–39 will be dismantled and seven will be used for fleet training exercises. The dismantled ships will include five Austin-class LPDs, averaging 47 years old. The service said they are no longer needed in reserve for amphibious lift requirements and will be stricken because it assessed the cost to reactivate them as prohibitive.
The 30-year plan said while it plans to build 54 more ships through FY ‘23 it will add 46 ships to the battle force inventory, resulting in a total of 326.
Then the service will then dip below 320 ships by 2025 before starting a large rise towards 355 ships after 2030.
The Navy said its basic FY ’19 plan is a realistic one “that reflects the imperative to remain balanced across the [Navy] priorities in an era of unpredictable and restrictive funding levels.”
However, the Navy said reaching the 355-ship goal in 30 years “represents an unacceptable pace in the context of the current and predicted security environment,” so it included options for increased scalability.
The plan presented projections based on increments of five more total ship procurements. Under the most ambitious option, the Navy could reach 355 ships in the 2036 timeframe if it procures 25 more ships. The service judged that as the maximum industrial capacity rate, but adding this many additional procurements results in a fleet size rising up to 370 ships in the late 2030s.
“By setting the conditions for an enduring industrial base as a top priority, we are postured to aggressively respond to more investment in any year, which if received in all years could attain” the target by the 2030s, the document said.
While pursuing required long-term and predictable funding as well as the Secretary of the Navy’s business reform initiatives, it “continues to aggressively pursue acquisition strategies to build ships more quickly and more affordably,” the Navy said.